Product: Powermonkey eXplorerManufacturer: PowerTravellerMSRP: $130
]Lowest Historical Price: $10
The PowerMonkey eXplorer is marketed as a backup power supply to give your gadgets an extra boost of battery power. With modern gadgetry placing ever increasing demands for portable power, the PowerMonkey eXplorer Solar Charger comes at just the right time to save you from running out of juice while away from a wall outlet. The standard price is about $110, but when they started offering a whopping $100 rebate on it (bringing the price to $10 AR), I had to pick one up to give it try.Update:
The $100 rebate
arrived on 7/21/08.In The Box
The PM eXplorer comes in a tidy zip case, with everything tightly packed into individual compartments. It also comes with an array of international power adapters. The two main components are the backup battery itself and the folding solar cell, which they call the "solar slave." You'll find a myriad of accessory adapters included that fit almost any portable power application.Specifications
The specifications claim as follows: 40 hours of battery life for iPods, 96 hours for Mobile Phones, 1600 pictures for Digital Cameras, 5 Hours for PSP, 6 hours for MP4/MP3 Players. There are three methods for charging the main battery: Directly via AC Adapter in 3.5 hours, USB charging in about 6 hours, or charging with the Solar Slave in 18 hours of direct sunlight.
Battery Capacity: 2200 mAh
Output Voltage: 4.5-5.5V
Output Current: 700mA max
The charging times were in-line with the specifications. When using the solar charging feature, you really want the solar panel to be in direct sunlight. Indirect sunlight will take far longer to charge the battery. The PowerMonkey battery has an LED indicator light that is amber while charging, and green once the battery is full.
iPod Video 5th Generation 30GB. The PowerMonkey was plugged in to a completely discharged iPod, and shuffled music playback was commenced. The PowerMonkey itself ran out of power at 1:40 into the test. The iPod was charging off of the PM during that time, and was able to output music for an additional 7:41 for a total iPod audio playback time of 9:21. This falls short of their claim of "40 hours" for iPods, and is more in line with their estimate of 6 hours for MP4/MP3 players.
Sony PSP Slim 2000: From a completely discharged battery on the PSP, the PowerMonkey was able to impart a 100% charge to the PSP in about 5 hours. The PowerMonkey still had power to spare, as it was reporting 5 bars out of 7 on the integrated LCD indicator. This capability would definitely be a big plus if you're away from regular plug-in power for long periods of time.
In addition to directly using the battery, you can also directly use the solar panel by connecting it to your device. While this will typically not provide a reliable enough current source for operating your device, it can effectively function as a trickle charger, slowly topping off your gadget so that it is charged while there is enough light.Conclusion
While I had apprehensions about the utility of this device at first, I have come to appreciate that the PowerMonkey eXplorer can be a device that sees everyday use. Green thumbs can use it to effectively take some small gadgets off the grid, while high demand users can use the relatively good capacity of the backup battery to shore up their power reserves. If you're backpacking through the wilderness, hang the solar charger from your pack to always have a supply of gadget power. It's even waterproof should you encounter inclement conditions. I came away with a positive impression of the PowerMonkey eXplorer, especially at the bargain-basement price of $10 that I got it for. The regular selling price of $100 would keep me away, however.Image Gallery: